WELL RED RED
Editor: Gareth Rober e: email@example.com Write to: Well Red Publishing Lt Ofﬁce 113, Imperial Cou Exchange Street East, Liverpool, L3 2A
INDEPENDENT LIVERPOOL FC SUPPORTERS’ MAGAZINE
SPECIAL EDITION JUNE 2010
image: S Russell Macphisto80 redandwhitekop.com
BLEEDING US DRy
never walk alone. The Liverpool Supporters’ Union, Spirit of Shankly (SOS), was set up at the end of January 2008 when around 350 fans turned up at The Sandon to address the issue surrounding the current ‘custodians’ of Liverpool Football Club. The Union was formed and is now fully constituted and run by a democratically elected Committee who seek to represent members’ interests. The constant and defining aim of the Union is to hold the owners to account, but the Union has also been involved in many other issues. + Meeting with Club officials to discuss travel, ticket allocation and the club's finances. + Operating competitive coach travel to the majority of domestic away games for members. + Liaising and representing local and overseas members through supporter liaison officers. + Holding regular events including social events and fundraising evenings. + Providing free coaching camps for children in the community which saw us shortlisted for the European Football Supporters Award. + Mass meetings throughout the year with regular e-mail updates to keep our members informed on all issues.
For more information and to become a member visit our website at www.spiritofshankly.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
WELL RED WELL RED WELL RED WELL RED NEW!
INDEPENDENT LIVERPOOL FC SUPPORTERS’ MAGAZINE
Editor: Gareth Roberts e: email@example.com Write to: Well Red Publishing Ltd Ofﬁce 113, Imperial Court Exchange Street East, Liverpool, L3 2AB
ISSUE ONE £2.70 APRIL-MAY 2010
GERRARD: What’s going on with our skipper?
ANFIELD Do we have to leave?
Roy Evans interview The state
IMAGE: Kit Nelson kitster29.deviantart.com
THE LIVERPOOL WAY?of our club
IG THE B TE: A B E D good Is he gh? u o en
S A C U L
IMAGE: S Russell Macphisto80 redandwhitekop.com
SHANKS: Brian Hall’s tribute to a legend ‘77: Dave Kirby on Rome STAY OR GO: The Benitez debate
SPECIAL EDITION JUNE 2010
INDEPENDENT LIVERPOOL FC
SUPPORTERS’ MAGAZINE IT GOES without saying that these are testing times to be a wellredmag.co.uk Liverpool fan. The season just gone was a total car crash – 19 defeats, bad luck with injuries, some kind of unwritten rule that we couldn’t be awarded a penalty and just when we thought the UEFA Cup would come to our ALAN KENNEDY £2.70Sally rescue, up popped ISSUE that ONE Manc, APRIL-MAY 2010 ISSUE TWO £2.70 INDEPENDENT LIVERPOOL FC JOHN WARK SUPPORTERS’ MAGAZINE Gunnell. You couldn’t make it up.JUNE/JULY 2010 So we limped into seventh (at least SPIRIT OF SHANKLYwellredmag.co.uk ﬁnished above the Bitters) and as EXCLUSIVE we soon as the ﬁnal whistle sounded at PLUS Hull, the ﬁngers started pointing. TONY BARRETT Meanwhile, the club is wrapped RETRO FOOTIE up in more politics than the general election and the hated owners show PAUL TOMKINS BLEEDING no sign of shifting. We might be PLUS COMPETITIONS up for sale but no-one’s IAN buying at US DRY CALLAGHAN £800million. We’ve got a manager DION and a FANNING board member warring via the BARRETT TONY media, we’ve got a Chelsea fan as a chairman and while the World Cup is a welcome distraction, we face the From Shanks to Yanks: prospect of an even worse season Anfield traditions that next year. have gone for good Whoever is the manager come the ﬁrst game of the season will struggle to match the expectations of many by players that wouldn’t get near any of our supporters. of the other Big Four sides? Without big money, Liverpool The club is heading for decline will not be challenging for the title under the ownership of Tom Hicks anytime soon. and George Gillett. In fact, with growing debts, a As Liverpool fans we need to continuing need to balance the come together. We need to put our books and the emergence of sides differences aside and ﬁght for what with greater resources like Man City, is a common cause – the removal of Tottenham and Aston Villa, the Reds the owners. have got a ﬁght on their hands to stand still, never mind go forward. The latest accounts from the club make for a grim read and don’t Yes, there’s decent players at the forget that they reﬂect a year when club – the backbone of the ﬁrst we ﬁnished second and had a run in eleven is still excellent. the Champions League. But how long are they going to God knows what next year’s stick around to ﬁreﬁght surrounded
ﬁgures will look like but it’s a safe bet they will be worse. This issue’s 14-page ‘They Are Bleeding Us Dry’ feature is a depressing read about the situation at the club. ACCOUNTS But it’s£50.3million a trueshow reﬂ ection of where has we are –been upspent shitoncreek without a costs associated to ‘the new paddle. stadium’ since Hicks to and be a long summer It’s going Gillett took new an even longer – and it charge. couldA be stadium that there is no sign of season come August... whatsoever. Tom and George – get out of our club. THAT’S how much interest payments PER DAY that Liverpool’s parent company have to meet due to the debts piled onto the club by Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
This is a special FREE edition of Well £51.5M Red — the new magazine for Liverpool FC fans LIVERPOOL’S debt just keeps on growing
Hicks and Roberts, Gillett. YNWA.under Gareth Editor The 2009 accounts of the club’s parent
PICTURES: ACTION IMAGES | DESIGN: GARETH ROBERTS & JOHN ANTHONY | WEB: WELLREDMAG.CO.UK | BLOG: ROBBOHUYTON.BLOGSPOT.COM company, Kop Football
IN ISSUE TWO... EVANS: US 06 ROY 14 BLEEDING Exclusive DRY: Special
Holdings, show total debt soared by £51.5 million in the year to July 2009.
ROME 1977: HILLSBOROUGH: Part two of Dave The story of the THE latest annual company accounts for Liverpool Kirby’s epic Euro off-duty doctor who FC’s parent company, Kop Football Holdings, revealed recordhelped losses of £54.9million. journey. to save lives. As of July 31, 2009, the group’s total debts were £472.5 million, causing interest payments to Royal DEBATE: Anﬁeld – INTERVIEW: Ian Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Wachovia, their creditors, robbohuyton.blogspot.com rise to £40.1 million. Martin Broughton, the recently stay, go or share? to Callaghan. appointed chairman, had to appear before the Premier
ell Red is the voice of10the analysis from Sky38Sports drip-fed telly 28 52 people that count at Liverpool clappers. ADVERTISE IN WELL RED FROM AS LITTLE AS £50. CONTACT US FOR MORE DETAILS Football Club - the fans. Well Red offers honest opinions on Packed with quality articles about all the issues of the day at our great club, things Anfield - on and off the pitch - exclusive interviews and features about the full-colour magazine is a cracking the glory days and contributions from read for any Red. some of the best Liverpool FC writers There’s no media myths from around including Tony Barrett and Paul agenda-led journos and no knee-jerk Tomkins. interview with the former boss. DEBATE: Is Lucas good enough? 54 14
report on the state of our club. INTERVIEW: George Sephton.
League to offer assurances the club will be able to fulfil their fixtures for next season.
Go to www.wellredmag.co.uk now to order issue two of our packed 64-page FULL COLOUR magazine for only £3
IMAGE: Kit Nelson kitster29.deviantart.com
BLEEDING US DRy
THE STATE OF OUR CLUB IMAGE: S Russell Macphisto80 redandwhitekop.com
THAT’S how much interest payments PER DAY that Liverpool’s parent company have to meet due to the debts piled onto the club by Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
£50.3M ACCOUNTS show £50.3million has been spent on costs associated to ‘the new stadium’ since Hicks and Gillett took charge. A new stadium that there is no sign of whatsoever.
£51.5M LIVERPOOL’S debt just keeps on growing under Hicks and Gillett. The 2009 accounts of the club’s parent company, Kop Football Holdings, show total debt soared by £51.5 million in the year to July 2009.
THE latest annual company accounts for Liverpool FC’s parent company, Kop Football Holdings, revealed record losses of £54.9million. As of July 31, 2009, the group’s total debts were £472.5 million, causing interest payments to Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Wachovia, their creditors, to rise to £40.1 million. Martin Broughton, the recently appointed chairman, had to appear before the Premier League to offer assurances the club will be able to fulfil their fixtures for next season.
STEVE MORGAN could have bought the club for £85m in 2004. Hicks and Gillett paid £220m in 2007 and after loading the club with debt and failing to build a stadium, they are now believed to value it at anything between £500m to £800m. Add in debts and the cost of a new ground and a new owner is looking at an £1bn investment.
LIVERPOOL have now shelled out £85million in interest payments on the debts incurred by Hicks and Gillett Jr upon takeover in February 2007 and their plight is now such that on two occasions this year they had to extend their short-term credit facility with RBS.
ROYAL Bank of Scotland and Wachovia have been forcing Hicks and Gillett Jr to move Liverpool’s borrowings away from them and on to LFC’s Cayman Islandslisted parent company. Last year, Liverpool reduced their bank loan from £350m to £290m but only because their offshore parent company increased its loan to the club by £86.2m to £144.4m. Liverpool pays 10 per cent interest on this loan.
THE CLUB IS IN ITS MOST
POSITION IN 50 YEARS THEY’RE IRISH SUNDAY INDEPENDENT SPORTS
BLEEDING US DRy
WRITER DION FANNING ON WHY LFC ARE CLOSE TO ‘DOING A NEWCASTLE’
And now I’m lying here I’ve had too much booze I’ve been shat on and spat on and raped and abused I know that I am dying and I wish I could beg For some money to take me from the old main drag - The Pogues
S I write this piece, a phoney debate is being conducted about the future of Rafael Benitez. It is phoney for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t think anyone believes he will be at Liverpool next season. Secondly, and more importantly, it masks the true story that has not been faced by those who think Liverpool need a new manager, some Arab money or a few more players: the truth is that the club is in its most perilous position in fifty years. Some or all of those things might happen. Liverpool will certainly have a new manager. There may be new players but as the club’s future is now linked to the future of Fernando
Torres, it is hard to see, if he departs, how any arrivals won’t be viewed as diminished. There has been talk of the return of Dubai International Capital but here is their news. Dubai was bailed out by Abu Dhabi (or Manchester City) recently and DIC recently pleaded with the lenders to one of their companies not to force them into bankruptcy. Almatis had been bought by DIC in a leveraged buy-out (sound familiar?) and that hasn’t worked out. Of course, a German aluminium company is not Liverpool Football Club but there is case to be made that Liverpool Football Club is no longer Liverpool Football Club. Under normal circumstances, those who say that no man is bigger than a club might have a case, although I’m not so sure it ever had much meaning. From that position, they would argue that Liverpool can absorb the sale of Torres. However the world’s best striker has forged such a spiritual connection with Liverpool that would make his departure, I believe, a fatal
blow to the club’s vision of itself. This is what Hicks and Gillett have done. Rick Parry and David Moores are culpable too if, for nothing else, deciding to sell to two men rather than one. Then again, the men who appointed joint-managers had form. They were outwitted by Gillett and Hicks, men of their time who felt the times would never change. Think of the world and its money right now and you have Liverpool. Think about the reality that no party in the election was prepared to acknowledge about the massive cuts in spending that must be taken and you have some idea of the denial many of Liverpool’s supporters appear to be living in. It is no surprise that Liverpool’s problems mirror those of the wider world because it is men like Tom Hicks and George Gillett we must thank for the state we’re in. The world of endless debts and of leveraged buy-outs was previewed in Liverpool when Hicks and Gillett arrived. The corporate world that sponsored them has been disgraced too but we could have figured
THE STATE OF OUR CLUB
that out when Hicks announced a completion date for the stadium but not the start date. We had entered an Alice in Wonderland world and Rafael Benitez was the man who spotted it when everybody else was still dreaming. In 1969, Norman Mailer ran for Mayor of New York. He had a simple but profound slogan: ‘No More Bullshit.’ Benitez did the same thing. He called bullshit on Hicks and Gillett. He was irascible, infuriating and profoundly good at everything he did. Benitez’s time at Liverpool was characterised by this fierce opposition to bullshit. It is ending because he has, in some ways, become what he beheld. Once Liverpool’s players started spinning about the race for fourth and once Benitez started talking about how the value of the club had increased during his time at Anfield then things were destined to unravel. That was not Benitez’s racket. At his best, he felt no need to point to his record because he didn’t respect the people who were looking it up. They were wrong about everything: wrong about his transfer record, wrong about rotation, wrong about how often he rested Torres. Yet they never shut up and they wore Benitez down. The reasons Rafael Benitez is no longer the right
manager for Liverpool are exactly the same as the reasons he was such a successful manager of Liverpool. His stubbornness allowed him to ignore the voices that told him he should buy Michael Owen or play Steven Gerrard in his “favoured” central midfield position. Then he became distracted and demented by the financial position and gaining control. His attempt to sell Xabi Alonso was a disaster – not because Alonso was in sparkling form
compounded when, having taken the biggest risk of his career at Liverpool, Benitez barely saw any of the transfer fee. He was contaminated by the bullshit coming down the line and the players had enough. Just as his success masked the dysfunction of the regime he was employed by, now his failures have hidden them too. Benitez took on Hicks and Gillett and paid the price: not the loss of his job but the loss of his vision of what the team should be. Like all obsessives, he ran the risk of losing touch with reality. So he will leave and things will get worse. Who will appoint a full-time manager? Who will take the job if there are not new owners? For those who adopt an unthinking position that Liverpool should simply be challenging for the title, the future is coming and then they will have finally run out of things to say when they glimpse the reality as Benitez did. Liverpool are closer to Newcastle United now than a club challenging Europe’s best. They are the club with which Liverpool has most parallels. Benitez was the best man to save the club but now he, too, has been spat on and shat on. The sense of impending doom is impending doom.
Benitez’s success masked the dysfunction of the regime he was employed by – now his failures have hidden them too and it made no sense but because his return to form was achieved not by coaxing the best from him but by instilling a sense of resentment that made his departure inevitable. One of the key tenets of Benitez’s philosophy is that he does not get close to the players. There is nothing wrong with that but it works best if the manager does not hold resentments if the players react to that distance as Alonso did. The sadness in the fracturing of the relationship with the player once known as “Son of Rafa” was
‘Even a past as magical as ours fades in the face of those looking at a bright future’ TIMES’ NORTH WEST FOOTBALL THEY’RE THE CORRESPONDENT TONY BARRETT
ON WHY LIVERPOOL HAVE BEEN LEFT BEHIND IN THE TOP FLIGHT
HE debate had been predictably one-sided and the winning line at the end of the verbal joust was in sight. It would not be a momentous victory – but it would be a victory all the same. “We’ve got Carlos Tevez and he’s the best striker in Argentina,” said the 13-year-old. “He’s not bad but we’ve got Fernando Torres and he’s the best forward in the world,” I replied. “Okay. But how about Shay Given? He’s the best shot-stopper around,” the teenager retorted, trying to raise the stakes but falling into another trap. “Given?!” I scoffed, unable to hold back the laughter. “The only thing he beats Pepe Reina at is visits to the barber.” It really was that easy. Liverpool versus Manchester City has always been a mis-match and this one was no different, especially with the kid giving away 21 years.
But what the hell, she started it and she was going to have to find out the hard way that there are some battles you just can’t win. Besides, I hadn’t even started on the trophy front yet. Then, out of the blue, came a low blow, a strike so well aimed that there could be no response. “Well we’ve got lots of money and all you’ve got is debt.” The words had barely left her lips and I knew there could be no way back. Anyone who’s ever played Top Trumps knows Hicks and Gillett could never triumph over Sheikh Mansour. I could have gone down the historical route but most of our greatest triumphs had taken place before she’d even been born. And even a past as magical as ours starts to appear faded in the face of those looking ahead to such a wonderful future. The following night I sat glued to the television, hoping against hope
that City wouldn’t beat Tottenham Hotspur so that their cash-laden revolution would at least be held in check for another season – and so that my younger cousin would feel at least a bit of the pain that she had inflicted on me, obviously. It was then that I realised just how far Liverpool had fallen. I’d known about it beforehand, of course, but denial had taken a hold and that “We are Liverpool” belief that has fuelled so many of us during even our darkest days was still giving me hope that everything would be okay in the end. But as I jumped out of my seat to celebrate Peter Crouch’s goal, I knew immediately how wrong things had gone. Supporting Spurs against City was all about our increasingly desperate need for a stay of execution – a hope that any unexpected reprieve from Manchester’s second club would give the country’s greatest
THE STATE OF OUR CLUB
AB FAB: Finding an owner like Abramovich is the only quick-fix solution for the Reds
club an opportunity to regroup and rediscover itself. Last season we all prayed that Manchester United would slip up and open up a clear path to the league title. A year on and we were all hoping that Manchester City would stumble in the race for fourth, not to allow us to take advantage of their setback, but to give us at least another year to get back into the big time. It is hard to see that happening, though. Even a club as prone to shooting itself in the foot as Manchester City will not keep on messing up, particularly with Mansour ready to bankroll a transfer window spending spree to the tune of £250million this summer. The strong likelihood is that they will finally take a top-four berth next season. Arsenal, with their new stadium and declining debt, will also expect to join them. So will Manchester United, who despite their debt problems remain a powerhouse thanks to almost 20 years of domestic dominance, and Chelsea, fuelled by Roman Abramovich’s own personal
fortune. Spurs will look to make the most of their rise over the last 12 months by proving that their form over the last year or so has not been a fluke. Which leaves Liverpool as the outsiders looking in.
which was managed well could rise through the ranks and even become champions, and the arrival of the great Bill Shankly ensured that this was exactly what Liverpool did. Now, it is not a managerial saviour that we all pray for, it is a financial one. Only if a benevolent billionaire, something most of us have never wanted in the past, decides to shower his personal fortune upon Anfield will Liverpool be given instant relief from the myriad of problems that continue to plague it. And, in case there is anyone out there who hasn’t noticed, the global economic recession means that there aren’t too many sugar daddies knocking about and still less who have an interest in bailing out an ailing football club. Worst of all, it looks like Manchester City, a club which should not be able to be mentioned in the same breath as Liverpool, may have bagged the last, and perhaps the best, one. Which is why I won’t be getting into any more football debates with my 13-year-old cousin – it’s an argument I can no longer win. Not while Hicks and Gillett are still in place anyway.
Only if a benevolent billionaire decides to shower his personal fortune upon Anfield will Liverpool be given instant relief It is hard to make any kind of convincing case for a renaissance at Anfield. The debts are too crippling, the fractures too deep and the malaise too insidious to look ahead with any degree of confidence. If it feels like a crisis it’s because it is one and it could quite feasibly be the worst that the club has faced at any time since Liverpool were relegated to the second tier of English football in the 1950s. At least back then football was still a meritocracy in which any team
Dear Tom and George ,
write to you as a lifelong red concerned at the precarious position we find ourselves in, not just in the Premier League but also in the grand scheme of things. Three long, arduous years ago the Dubai International Capital takeover of Liverpool FC hit the rocks. Everyone was crestfallen after dreams of mega money were shattered and we were left right back where we started. However, just as it looked as though all hope was lost, up stepped two rosycheeked, twinkle-toothed knights in shining armour to offer us the money and the know-how to make the step up amongst the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United at the summit of the game. Those men were you. Those men were liars. Three years on from your takeover of the club and there is a strong case to argue that we have actually gone backwards; we certainly don’t seem to have progressed. Of course, I am sure that you would immediately point me in the direction of the manager’s office if I wanted someone to blame for all this but the fact of the matter is you are at the top of the tree here and therefore everything that happens at the club happens as an extension of your control. Former U.S President Harry S. Truman always kept a sign on his desk reading “The Buck Stops Here” – I think you could learn something from your compatriot by way of taking responsibility for things that occur under your ownership. Please don’t think that I am placing all of the blame at your door here because I do realise that a number of factors have contributed to our decline; poor performances, bad management, injuries and plain misfortune have all knocked us down a peg at one point or another but
A letter to Tom Hicks & George Gillett... the real issue here, the one that keeps many a Liverpool fan awake at night, is the very real possibility that we could be witnessing an historic moment in the life of this club. This generation of Liverpool fans may very well be the last to see the club rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite. Call me pessimistic if you will but the worst-case scenario is one that you ignore at your own peril in this industry. Our illustrious past has bred ignorance amongst a generation of fans who believe our history will provide the coat tails on which we will hitch a free ride to an equally glorious future. The reality is, though, that only a serious injection of cash can take us where we want to go. If there is anything that we can learn from the likes of Leeds it is that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. If we were to slip into a decline even half as severe as that of our
one-time rivals, you would simply never be forgiven for allowing it to happen. This brings me on to the real purpose of this letter; to question your motives, credentials and even financial status. Firstly, I would like to say that I am hugely disappointed at your failure to live up to the promises that you made upon sealing the takeover. I suppose the fact that I bought into it in the first place is a testament to your ability to sell. However, the lack of movement thereafter has come to show that your words were just a smokescreen behind which there is very little substance. You arrived with the promise of world-class players to assist the likes of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard in driving the club to glory yet on only one occasion have you afforded Rafa Benitez the luxury of spending over £20million on a transfer, and that just so happens to have resulted in the acquisition of
THE STATE OF OUR CLUB
Fernando Torres, who exploded on to the scene and quickly established himself as the world’s best striker, tripling in value along the way. In the price bracket below that we have welcomed Javier Mascherano, Alberto Aquilani and Robbie Keane to the club all for between £15 and £20m. Mascherano is another player who is arguably the best at his job in world football, while Alberto Aquilani is yet to have had enough time to establish himself but I believe him to be a fine player. Robbie Keane is a tough one to call because nobody really knows the manner in which he was signed but the fact that Rafa shipped him out so quickly shows that he does not dwell on his decisions before cutting his losses. So tell me, given the manager’s superb record with larger sums of money in the transfer market, why is it that you do not supply him with such funds on a more regular basis? Instead, he has been forced to operate on a relative shoestring, spending less than not only our direct rivals but also some of the
clubs below us in the pecking order. Even with the managerial talents that Rafa possesses it is almost impossible to acquire top-class players with the kind of money that you have provided in a market that is always inflating. There are, of course a few exceptions; Daniel Agger, Yossi Benayoun, Peter Crouch, Craig Bellamy and Alvaro Arbeloa to name but a few. However, the majority of these budget signings have been moved on in the name of funding bigger, better signings. The issue here is that when you sacrifice three quality players to sign one world-class name you lose your strength in depth which results in the kind of thin squad that has seen us drop way off the pace this season. Many people are quick to slate Rafa Benitez for his ventures in the transfer market; figures like £200m are bandied around freely as the amount of money that he has poured into his signings without any return. This is both ignorant and incorrect. If you completely analyse Rafa’s transfer history then you will see,
as I have briefly explained, that his record with big money is fantastic. The thing that tarnishes his name is that he has repeatedly had to gamble on plucking players from obscurity and placing them in front of the expecting eyes of the Anfield faithful. I don’t know a manager in the world that can take a team to the top in this fashion. You wouldn’t buy a Hyundai and enter it into the Nascar Sprint Cup, so how do you expect us so compete at this highest level with second-rate players? It seems to me that when you purchased this club you bit off more than you could chew. I am not for one second going to pretend that I possess an encyclopaedic knowledge of American sports but I think I’m probably right in saying that the passion and personal involvement of a Liverpool FC fan with their club is unrivalled worldwide and far exceeds anything that you expected when you arrived. I also think that you entered this venture as businessmen first, and sports fans second. In this sense it is clear that you could never be as
emotionally affected by the demise of this club as the loyal supporters that have dedicated their lives to it. Perhaps all you are sensitive to is the weight of your wallet. If you were around ten years ago I think you may well have been in a position to really drive this club forward. However, such is the amount of money involved in today’s game it seems that, as wealthy as you may be, you are small fry in comparison with fat cats such as Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Chelsea and Manchester City respectively. Even the likes of Lakshmi Mittal and family, the owners of Championship club QPR, have a more significant fortune than both of you put together. The modern game, then, seems to be a playground exclusive to the super rich; I can almost picture Mr Abramovich and co. sitting at the top of the climbing frame while you struggle to reach the first rung. As much as it may sadden me, I have to admit that passion and desire count for very little in the quest for silverware these days. The game has changed and it seems that the only way to compete with the best on the field, is to compete with them off of it. Whoever has the biggest financial muscle will, more often than not, come out on top and so reap the rewards of their investment, if you can even call it that. We may now have reached the point where the owners of a football club are not just looking for a return on their investment, but more so the pure thrill of owning their own club and being able to say that they are the best in the world. Top-flight clubs are now becoming pawns on the rich man’s chess board and in 20 years’ time I expect most Premier League clubs to be under the ownership of people for whom money is no object. Given a choice everyone would rather see honours earned than
honours bought. However, if it means a long-awaited trophy taking pride of place in the cabinet then the fans won’t care how it gets there, just so long as it does. The insatiable hunger for success far outweighs pride and morals here and I think this club is now ready to accept the new money route to glory. At the last count your combined wealth amounted to about £1bn, around 12th place in the British football rich list. In terms of Premier League clubs there seems to be a direct correlation between your place in the rich list, and your place in the table. For this reason I do not see us ever breaking the super-rich stranglehold under your ownership. Your relatively meagre net worth coupled with the debts you have put the club under mean that while other teams progress we will continue to stagnate and even decline. In fact, going by the rich list itself, we would be placed behind Manchester City, QPR, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Everton, Celtic,
Unfortunately, you have failed to live up to all of those promises and worse still you have dragged the good name of this club through the mud along the way by repeatedly washing your dirty laundry in public and embarrassing us with stunts like Klinsmann-gate. If Bill Shankly were around today he’d be utterly appalled at what has happened to “The Liverpool Way.” Surely, with the sale of your aforementioned assets as well as some others (property etc.), there is no better time to be focusing the majority of your resources and attention on Liverpool FC. You have done so much damage since arriving and here you have a chance to make amends, so what’s stopping you? You came to the club promising that top class players would follow you through the door yet looking at today’s squad and comparing it with the one that Rafa inherited, there seems to be little difference in terms of quality. We still have a few great players who are dragged down by the incompetence they are surrounded by. You have had the opportunity to do something about this but every time the transfer window opens there seems to be another excuse; the latest being that January was a poor market and offered little quality. It certainly offered more quality than we currently possess. You handed the manager a lengthy contract yet you aren’t providing him with the resources he needs to do his job properly. In this business you get out what you put in yet you seem reluctant to put enough in. Some people believe that your lack of activity is an attempt to starve Rafa of funds so to force him out without actually firing him. This would mean that you could avoid paying off his remaining contract and put any money that you saved into a kitty for a new managerial appointment to utilise. I realise that you have publicly stated that you are fully committed to Rafa and his new contract but you’ll have to forgive me if I am a little reluctant to accept your word. I listened to a radio interview with West Ham co-owner David Gold who clearly and honestly outlined all of the club’s weaknesses and how they planned to address them. This kind of approach is so refreshing in an industry where
Here we have two men who arrived at Anfield with promises of big names and a big stadium without the big debt that we so feared Watford and Manchester United in terms of the respective wealth of British football club owners. Even Cheltenham Town owner Simon Keswick has a £966m fortune to rival that of yours combined. Since I researched the 30 richest people in British football I appreciate that you are about to boost your net worth with the sales of the Texas rangers (£310m) and the Montreal Canadians (£330m). This would take your combined fortune up to around the £1.6bn mark. Although this wouldn’t get you a table with a Sheikh, it is certainly a significant amount of money which begs another question altogether; why aren’t you using it to invest in Liverpool FC? Here we have two men who arrived at Anfield with promises of big names and a big stadium without the big debt that we so feared.
secrets and lies are rife. I do not expect you to emulate this kind of openness but I would certainly appreciate it if you would refrain from deflecting the questions put to you and respond with honesty and realism. What I would really like to know is what your future plans are for the club. So far the new stadium takes the form of a small mound in the middle of Stanley Park and the massive debts continue to anchor our progress. Given the pace at which the game is evolving there is no time to dwell on decisions and I see only two possible outcomes for the future of this club. The first outcome is that you follow up on your way overdue promises of taking this club to the next level and heavily invest in our future. The second, god forbid, is that you continue to starve the club of the nutrients it needs to grow and Alex Ferguson finally succeeds in knocking Liverpool “off their f*****g perch”. There is simply no middle ground and we have reached a point where it is glaringly obvious that you need to make a big decision; either you are with us for the long run and you are prepared to invest, or you are willing to cut your losses and leave. I have to add a third outcome at this point as I think it is most likely that you will, in fact, continue to operate as you are in the hope that someone comes along with a big enough offer to send you packing with a nice profit because as I stated before, you are businessmen first and sports fans second. To you, profit is everything and it doesn’t matter how many people you hurt along the way. This brings me nicely onto my next question; why won’t you sell? I appreciate that you entered this venture with a vision of increasing the value of the club and then at some point in the future passing it on for a significant profit. However, for whatever reason you have failed to achieve your goals and have alienated the almost everyone involved with the club along the way. It has now reached the point where you have become figures of hate in your own organisation so I have to ask, why is it that you refuse to just up and leave? I’m sure you haven’t been short of offers and although they probably don’t meet your ambitious requirements you probably wouldn’t be out of pocket. Are you trying to protect your reputation as businessmen, or do you
actually still believe you can compete with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester Utd, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan etc? If so, how do you intend to do that without putting your hands in your pockets and providing the necessary funds? To go full circle, I would again like to remind you that the possibility of a serious decline in the fortunes of this football club is currently playing on everyone’s minds. I’m sure I don’t need to give you a lecture on the basics of business but the fact is that an organisation with debts like ours has to meet its repayment demands. If the organisation starts to fail in the industry it operates in then the money it relies on to finance the repayments just isn’t there and this can result in the forced sale of assets. In this particular set of circumstances those assets are the likes of Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres amongst others. There is also the possibility that some of these superstars could be driven away by their hunger to succeed and that too would be as a direct result of your actions. Should you allow this kind of deterioration to happen you will forever be associated with the death of the most successful British football club in history. That, surely, will be more damaging to your reputation than simply cutting your losses and leaving. I would greatly value your honest and sincere response to this letter. Please don’t treat me like a member of the media circus and try to fob me off by spouting figures and pointing the finger at the credit crisis or the manager. I may not be a business guru but I am also no mug and I know more about the football industry and Liverpool FC than you could ever dream of. I have not dedicated my life to the game and to this club to be mugged off by two fabricators who believe that their position allows them to get away with doing or saying anything they like. I therefore don’t want to hear about the credit crisis, if it affected you so badly that it halted our progress then perhaps you aren’t wealthy enough to be in the game at all. It didn’t seem to affect other clubs around us who continued to grow. I also don’t want to be sold the promise of a £100m investment in the near future; I have already
THE STATE OF OUR CLUB heard about this possibility and exciting though it may be for a quick fix, it is a minuscule sum to be discussing when talking about the long term future of the club. All that is left, then, is the truth. The truth that most of us already know but are yet to hear from the horse’s mouth. I implore you, not only for my benefit but for the benefit of everyone who loves this club so dearly, to reply with honesty, sincerity and realism. Just as it is a player’s duty to sign autographs outside the stadium for a paying fan who has waited for hours in the rain, it is your duty to take the time to respond to letters like mine, from a paying fan who has spent hours trying to express my concerns about your involvement with the club. Lastly, I would just like to remind you of the value, and indeed power, of the fans of Liverpool Football Club. You may be the people who have the final say on internal matters, who sign the cheques and who balance the books but we, the fans, are the real owners of this club. Without its supporters a football club is nothing and we just so happen to be a very special set of supporters. We can move mountains with our voices, make or break a player with our support, keep a manager in his seat or if we so wished, even topple him. Do not think that just because you are the owners of this club that you have all the power. You are very fortunate that you have a good manager in place who has managed to milk every last drop of ability out of his team and have them overachieve in the form of a Champions League title, an FA Cup, a European Super Cup and an impressive title challenge. However, our deficiencies are now starting to show, as are the reasons for them and to quote one of my favourite films, we’re very, pissed off about it. I hope I have made my points clear and I look forward to receiving your response.
Yours, Liam Tomkins oleole.com/blogs/the-kop-end
WE’RE GOING NOWHERE... NEITHER ARE THEY THEY’RE ANDY HEATON & JIM BOARDMAN ON
BLEEDING US DRy
WHY A QUICK FIX TO LIVERPOOL’S PROBLEMS LOOKS VERY UNLIKELY
EARS amongst Liverpool supporters that the appointment of Martin Broughton was little more than a ploy to buy more time from the banks certainly won’t be eased following Sunday Times revelations that the latest loan extension from RBS was for a full 12 months. New chairman Broughton (right) was ostensibly brought in to facilitate the swift sale of the club, a sale in his words that should be completed in “a matter of months”. If fans believed him (and a few did for a short time, until reality slapped them in the face again) there’d have been something to finally celebrate in a season no Liverpool fan has enjoyed. But the likelihood of that happening at Torres speed looked extremely slim following a report in the Wall Street Journal claiming Tom Hicks still expected the club to sell for up to £800million. That was before the Reds’ accounts were sneaked out showing overall debt of a staggering £473m and dashing supporters’ hopes of an end to this torture yet further. To now find that the bank gave the owners at least 12 months to find a buyer who was willing to not only
pay that outrageous asking price but to deal with that frightening debt leaves fans with heads in hands convinced there is no end to this nightmare. Have the owners persuaded the bank to stay off their backs long enough to see if the world markets recover? The accounts showed the majority of the Reds’ debt was to the bank – an overall £238m outstanding but with a facility to increase that up to
a potential £297m. Overall the club found itself hit with a £43m bill for interest during that year ending 31 July 2009, making an interest bill totalling £76m for the past two years alone. To put that into perspective, when Liverpool announced details of a 60,000-seater stadium in 2002 the whole cost, of the whole project, was estimated at between £60m and £70m. In two years the club has paid more in interest than that stadium would have cost to build. Staying on the subject of the stadium, despite it still not actually existing, it’s costing more and more money every time another set of accounts is sneaked out. This time another £22.3m went into what remains a figment of a Dallas architect’s imagination. Shovels never went into the ground, “large swimming pools” never started to take shape, but Liverpool have so far thrown £45.5m at a stadium that might never be built. The last attempt at building a stadium resulted in the club writing off £10.3m for the abandoned plans inherited by the current owners, bringing the money wasted so far to £55.8m. Fans are understandably angered at these figures. £76m in interest for two years, £55.8m spent on
a stadium yet to even have one ounce of steel bought for it, a total of £131.8m spent by the club since the new owners came in on the very thing they were brought in for. And they’ve not it brought it. They’ve just taken. Coincidentally that pretend stadium figure is very close to the amounts the owners had claimed they’d put into the club so far out of their own pockets. Co-owner George Gillett Junior was recorded speaking to a supporter late last year about the state the club was in and claimed that he and his partner had put £128m in. It wasn’t all he claimed. It’s common knowledge, recorded in legal documents, that the two owners borrowed the money to buy the club, a total of £298m was made available to them. But Gillett likes his fairy tales: “When we bought the club it was with our own money. Cash.” That comment alone was astounding, even by Gillett’s standards. Twelve months later and that loan needed to be refinanced but – we believe – Gillett’s financial situation wasn’t quite as rosy as he’d said when that first loan was taken out. One of the sticking points in getting it refinanced was that Hicks was no longer keen on signing a finance agreement on a “joint and several” basis and so began a feud that still hasn’t ended. The refinancing went through eventually with all but the initial purchase price put directly onto the club. This half of Liverpool’s ‘Brothers Grimm’ continued with his stories: “The club is in extraordinarily good financial condition. Far better than United, Chelsea or Arsenal. We have put more money in than anyone, more than Man City with the craziness they have got.” If you hadn’t heard the recording yourself you’d assume this was all made up by someone out to smear Gillett as a madman, so wild were the claims. But he made it all up himself. And he wasn’t finished: “The vast majority came from Tom and me and our personal cash, not the club, not from borrowings.” It wasn’t his only gem: “If I told you that Arsenal by law cannot spend as much as we do, United cannot spend any more than we can, would you say we are under spending? We didn’t do what Man United did. They took all of their money from the player sale and owed so much
THE STATE OF OUR CLUB
money they had to use it to pay down the debt.” Even when he eventually got something right he made it wrong: “We have put £128 million in to buy players on top of what’s come in in the last 18 months.” Even Rafa’s most loyal supporters would struggle to accept a season like the one now ending had he been given £128m – plus the money coming in from any sales – in the space of 18 months. Most of that money went on appeasing RBS by reducing some of that debt. A few months later the Managing Director Christian Purslow (above) backed up Gillett’s claims about the owners’ investment into the club. He told Spirit of Shankly that “last summer  a large amount of debt was paid off by the owners personally. At the same time, they having by then invested some £130m, it was agreed we would fund our transfer spending for the time being out of our own resources.” Let’s repeat again, they’ve not thrown anywhere near £130m of their own money into the pot for transfers. The £130m shows up in the Reds’ accounts as £145.3m, but it shows as a debt – they didn’t put the money in as equity. It’s a loan from Kop Cayman, the overseas parent company, and for all we know was borrowed by them from some other source somewhere. However they got hold of it, they charge the club 10 per cent interest on it. And with none of the interest paid so far, the debt is growing at a sorry rate, hence the reason the £130m is now £145m. Is there anything else the club could use the odd £15m for? Players, perhaps? Whilst the headlines of the last few days have again been dominated by Hicks, Gillett, Broughton, Purslow,
part sales, full sales, boardroom showdowns past, boardroom showdowns present, transfer spend, ins and outs but a distinct lack of Sheikhs about, the only ones seemingly not worthy of a mention are the ones who are really financing this whole sorry charade; not the banks, not the owners, but the fans. Any deal that has the potential to keep afloat the morally bankrupt regime of George Gillett and Tom Hicks can only be described as horrifically bad for the real custodians of the club as they are consigned to yet another season of soul-destroying stagnation on the pitch. In the vast majority of other businesses, such disdain for the paying customer and corporate rape would have seen a company fail long ago, as customers took their “business” elsewhere but, as we have found to our considerable cost, football is just not “any other business”. The emotional blackmail of giving up on something that has been part of your life, and has given you so much for so long proves too much to bear, as we pay hand over fist for our season tickets, Sky and ESPN. We are the marketing man’s wet dream, the ultimate brand devotee, and don’t those at the top just know it? It’s hardly as if we are going to write a strongly worded letter to the customer services manager threatening to start watching Everton is it? How they must laugh as we pay our £38, are told to sit down, shut up and that we mustn’t protest; not that it matters though, because they’ve had our money anyway, and like a victim of systematic domestic abuse, we always come back for more. And remember, that is OUR £38. It’s not a £38 that we borrowed off somebody else, to be paid back by somebody else, with us making a nice profit out of it having never even stuck our hands in our pockets. We made sacrifices to find all those thirty-eight pounds. Like we make sacrifices if we decide to buy our children all three of the brand-new kits that are out this summer. And for some fans you’ll need to multiply that £38 by at least ten, because that’s the kind of money it costs to buy the ticket along with a £50 hotel room from Thomas Cook,
the club’s official touts. Of course, families like the Hicks’ and the Gillett’s wouldn’t get where they are in the world without trampling on a few (thousand) people along the way; it’s extremely doubtful we are the first or that we will be the last victims of these particular snake oil sellers. We should have seen them coming, and undoubtedly we won’t be so easily fooled again, but ultimately, we are powerless to make a tangible difference, despite the admirable
efforts of Spirit of Shankly and a handful of clever, resourceful and determined individuals who have, at the very least, been a major irritant to those guilty of tarnishing the name of Liverpool Football Club. Change will only occur when they either find someone who is willing to pay the vastly inflated asking price for a struggling business or the Royal Bank of Scotland decide to step in a put a stop to the corporate abuse of England’s most successful football club. Wachovia are no longer involved with Liverpool Football Club, charging LFC £3.6m to be freed from existing agreements before RBS quite willingly assumed their £60m+ exposure last summer. George Gillett quite happily dismissed the spending of some
Spanish clubs: “That money is all borrowed from the government,” he said, criticising the practice. But RBS are now publicly owned and the fact they continue to support, nay, encourage the current owners of LFC, is a stunning indictment of just how much risk banks will take chasing the mighty dollar, how little they have learned from past misdemeanours and exactly what they think of the people that had to bail them out to the tune of £45.5billion. A bail out that that was down to, in the main, irresponsible lending, twisted accounting practices and greed. Sound familiar? You can read more from Andy Heaton and Jim Boardman at anfieldroad.com
WHO DO WE
WITH Liverpool up for sale, fans can dream of the day that the club eventually rids itself of Hicks and Gillett. But who will take the reins? Could it be a chance for fans to take control of the club they love? BY CLAIRE JONES
WANT AS THE NEXT OWNERS?
OM HICKS and George Gillett have failed miserably to meet the two criteria essential to successful ownership: a secure financial footing and a respect for the culture of the club. It is on these two criteria that their potential successors should be judged. The financial future of the club has long hinged on a new (or bigger) stadium. Matchday income accounts for the largest chunk of revenue of Manchester United and Arsenal. And it closely follows broadcasting revenues for Liverpool and Chelsea as the most important source of income. All of the top five clubs in Deloitte’s annual football rich list have stadia with a capacity of pretty
much 60,000 or more, with the two top earners, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, having capacities of more than 80,000. Arsenal’s move to the Emirates raised average matchday revenue by 97 per cent to £3.1million per game (Liverpool’s is an estimated £1.3 million a game; Man United’s £3.6m, Chelsea’s £2.3m). Even after interest payments for the financing of the Gunners’ stadium are accounted for, the club is still £20m up for the year. The revenue stream also seems relatively resistant to economic downturns with supporters preferring to make a host of other sacrifices to secure their season ticket. Without a new or improved stadium, Liverpool will quite simply lack the financial might to compete
at the top level. The relationship between purchasing power and success is not as causal as some suggest. You can compensate, as Arsene Wenger and FC Barcelona have done, by having an excellent youth set-up (although you still have to pay high wages for the best kids). But there is enough of a correlation between revenue and success to say that it matters. It is on this pledge, to build a new stadium, that Hicks and Gillett have most crucially reneged. The discord between the fans and the owners may owe something to cultural cross-wires – American sports teams are often run as franchises and, for the club’s owners, fans’ attachment to the club’s
BRAND NOU START: Barcelona belongs to and is run by its 102,000 members – the fans. Could we do the same?
heritage as an integral part of the city’s history must have come as something of a shock. But ultimately, the roots of the dispute stem from the lack of promised investment. Saddling the club with debt meant that Hicks and Gillett were unable to secure financing for a new stadium without fresh capital. This is the key reason why they must go. In terms of preserving the club’s culture, the well-run and financed share-ownership model is as near to the Platonic ideal as you can get. The history of FC Barcelona should leave no-one in any doubt of that. The ruling ideas in a society stem from those who own the means of production – as owners of the club, the fans would dictate the culture. FC Barcelona serves to cement the Catalan identity, building its success on the tribal nature of a region desperate to assert its independence from Madrid. There is not so much at stake in terms of regional politics, but Liverpool Football Club is an integral part of the city of Liverpool’s heritage. It must remain thus. The traditional ownership model seen in British football, one which was successfully adopted by Liverpool for the bulk of the last century, that of the local businessman making good and buying the club, can also preserve the club’s culture. It was under this model that Shankly thrived. But
there is one crucial distinction: the local businessman can sell, the fans cannot. There may be those that seek the succour of a billionaire businessman. However, the fate of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, whose wish to buy the club has been scuppered by the emirate’s debt troubles, highlights the dangers of relying on the financial fate of one individual. In the interests of preserving the culture of the club, all fans should back shared ownership. However, though the governance structure strikes me as sound, there are financial elements of ShareLiverpoolFC’s proposals that warrant closer inspection and questioning before anyone stumps up their cash. ShareLiverpoolFC acknowledges a bigger stadium, as “a necessity for LFC”. However, it notes that “the financing of a new stadium or extension isn’t that complicated.” This view is completely disingenuous and displays a worrying lack of insight into the current conditions of global credit markets. During one of the biggest credit bubbles in history, Arsenal – chaired by the well connected, Eton educated Peter Hill-Wood – initially struggled to secure funding for the Emirates. We’re now living in the aftermath of the bursting of that bubble. Yes, the balance sheet is likely to be a damn sight healthier under the fan-owned
model as there would be no debt, which would make financing easier. But there’s a big difference between easier and easy. Any bank lending for the new stadium would likely have to be secured on the club, which ShareLiverpoolFC want to buy for £350m but which could be valued at far less. The new stadium is expected to cost £400m to build, meaning that even at ShareLiverpoolFC’s valuation, the club would still need to find £50m for an unsecured loan. This is no mean feat. This is not to say it couldn’t be done. But there needs to be more on this in the ShareLiverpoolFC prospectus. Would they, like Arsenal, consider a bond issue? Would interest payments be secured at fixed, not flexible, rates? As fans, we owe it to the club to ensure that it does not once more fall into the hands of the likes of Hicks and Gillett. We cannot afford again to get seduced by false promises of new stadia from people with finances leakier than Everton’s defence. We must make fan ownership work and that means becoming financially literate and asking awkward questions. ShareLiverpoolFC, for one, must start providing the answers. Read more from Claire Jones at
BY MUTUAL DISCONTENT
Rafa’s gone but the club’s position is no better — in fact it just got a whole lot worse says GARETH ROBERTS HE MADE THE PEOPLE HAPPY: Rafa and Stevie brought Old Big Ears Home in 2005
ACKING Rafa Benitez is like EH?: Our chairman rearranging the deckchairs is a huge fan of Chelski on the Titanic.
The owners of Liverpool Football Club – Tom Hicks and George Gillett – have turned a once-great institution into a sinking ship. They have plunged the club into millions of pounds of debt with nothing to show for it – the promised stadium remains the figment of an architect’s imagination while much of the debt is the money used by Hicks and Gillett to buy the club in the first place. They promised they wouldn’t ‘do a Glazer’ – then they ‘did a Glazer’. The club will struggle under ANY manager while the American carpetbaggers own Liverpool and luring a top-name manager to Anfield right now is an impossible task – what boss in his right mind would walk into this shit storm? So that means lowering the sights. With Benitez out of the picture, a manager who won the European Cup, the FA Cup and was four points away from delivering the title a year ago, who next? Well as was so often the case for Benitez, it will be the second, third or fourth choice that will be heading for Liverpool once Rafa has cleared his desk. Talk of Guus Hiddink is fanciful – he has a worldwide reputation as a great manager. He would demand a huge salary and would no doubt request a handsome transfer kitty to freshen up the Liverpool squad. The likelihood of either is on a par with a Liverpool-Manchester mutual appreciation society being formed – it’s never going to happen. With a £351million debt pulling the club into the water, the men in power will have to go for the cheap option as they try to turn the tide. And that means someone already on the books having a crack until new owners are found. That means Kenny Dalglish or Sammy Lee. Lee wasn’t good enough for Bolton and while he is an excellent No.2, he freezes in the headlights when he’s in the hotseat. And Dalglish? Well he’s an Anfield legend, he loves the club and the fans love him. But he hasn’t managed in the Premier League for 12 years. And the King, like any manager, would ideally want a pot of cash to add to what is still a decent first eleven at Liverpool. That pot is likely to be barely full rather than brimming over. So that
means wheeling and dealing, shopping at Netto rather than Harrods, selling to buy and trying to build a team that can challenge for the title (because that’s what the unrealistic expectations at Anfield STILL demand) with hands tied behind your back. Something Rafa Benitez has been doing ever since that fateful day in 2007 when Hicks and Gillett got their hands on the family silver. Benitez was used to the political games at Anfield. He dealt with the owners approaching Jurgen Klinsmann behind his back, he was used to having his transfer targets vetoed by a suitedup bean counter. He almost brought the much-coveted
19th league title to Anfield in spite of those conditions. Whether any other manager – Kenny included – can juggle off-field shenanigans, budgets dwarfed by supposed rivals and STILL achieve success is highly unlikely. It won’t stop people wanting it though. And how long before the name of a legend becomes mud? Meanwhile, Hicks and Gillett rock on their rocking chairs at the ranch – waiting for the mug willing to spend £600million on a club, clear debts of £351m and build a stadium for what, another £300m? Benitez has gone and Rome’s still burning.